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Michael Nagler, Ed.D.

Michael Nagler has launched a slew of tech initiatives.

He implemented a 1:1 iPad program that has gone district-wide in Long Island, N.Y. He has led the development of standards-based digital portfolios for all students K-7, championed interactive video lessons and pioneered the adoption of makerspaces and fabrication labs, which include 3-D printers, laser engravers and plasma cutters.

It’s all in the service of a bigger vision.

“My role really is to try to envision what world kids are going to graduate into,” he said. “I am not even talking about high school kids. I am picturing my youngest and where they will be in 10 years. We need a system that is nimble and flexible enough to do new initiatives well and to also prepare kids for the unexpected.”

To make that vision a reality, Nagler has leaned heavily on corporate collaborators. These collaborators include the startup platform kidOYO that he helped modify and another startup called School 4 One that helped build the school district’s digital portfolio. When it comes to cutting-edge ed tech, “you can put it together yourself, but it is not going to grow and scale without the expertise of these outside partners,” he said. “The startups in particular are good because there is no arrogance, no sense that they made something perfect and now you have to change for them.”

Startups have the flexibility a school district needs. “If we come to them and offer to help them make a better product, they are eager to hear that. They need someone to help them deliver a better product, and schools can embrace that,” he said.

While the outside support is critical, the inside team ultimately gets the job done. “I went to my experts, the teachers,” he said. “I didn’t tell them what to do, I showed them the ideas and asked them to help create something that everyone would like.” — Adam Stone